Letter of the Friends-1                                                                                (c) 2003 Reader Methodios Stadnik

photo: The Belarussian Greek Catholic Chapel at Mogilev, August 15, 1996

No. 1, 1997

Dear Friends!

The Greek-Catholic Belorussian magazine CARKVA, from its birth up until 1995, has won many friends, not only in Belarus but also beyond. They are in fact not only friends of "Carkva" (which means "The Church") but also of the Bielaruskaja Hreka-Katalickaia Carkva that is, the Belorussian Greek-Catholic Church.

These friends come from many different parts of the world and speak different languages. This edition of the "Letter of the Friends of CARKVA" is at their initiative. It hopes to be a letter that brings together friends of the Belorussian Greek-Catholic Church, a letter of friends to friends.

The Belorussian Greek-Catholic Church

The Belorussian Greek-Catholic Church is the heir to the Union of Brest (the Belorussian, "Bierascie") that is located in Belorussian territory. That union, promulgated in 1596, was the quest to reestablish unity between the Church of the Metropolitan See of Kiev (that comprised both Ukraine and Belarus) and the Church of Rome. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the majority of Christians in the territory of Belarus belonged to the Oriental Church in union with Rome (also known as the "Uniate" or "Greek-Catholic" Church).

From the middle of the 19th century the Belorussian Greek-Catholics were persecuted and suppressed by the Russian Czars. The Church was reborn after World War 1, but under the Soviet Communist regime was suppressed once again, until 1989, when its birth (revival) was begun.

At the present time, the Greek-Catholic parishes in Belarus are located in the following localities: Minsk ― 2 parishes, Baranavicy, Brest (Bierascie), Gomel (Homiel), Grodno (Harodnia), Ivacevicy, Lida, Mogilev, Maladecna, Polack (Polacak) ― 2 parishes, Vitebsk (Viciebsk). In other localities, the Greek-Catholic communities are in the process of being registered or of being organized.

Only 6 priests and 3 deacons are engaged in the Church's pastoral service. In addition, the monastic life is being reborn. There are 8 seminarians studying in the seminaries of diverse countries.

The parishes do not possess their own houses of worship. In some places it has recently become possible to organize small house chapels, in other places the liturgical functions are celebrated in rooms rented (sometimes) for several hours a week.

photo:  Divine Liturgy on Feast of St Josaphat in Lida, Oct 17, 1996

Only the Greek-Catholic parish of Mogilev possesses a little chapel that has been restored (with the help of our friends) and open for worship. A church is under construction at Polacak.

The Greek-Catholic parishes in Belarus are organized into one Deanery directed by the Most Reverend Protopresbyter Jan Matusevic.

The Belorussian Greek-Catholic Church remains under the direct jurisdiction of the Congregation of the Oriental Churches. The office of Visitator "ad nutum Sanctae Sedis" and of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches for the Greek-Catholics in Belarus has been entrusted to the Most Reverend Father Archimandrite Sergius Gajek, MIC.

The Greek-Catholic parish in the city of Brest (where the Union was proclaimed) does not possess any premises. The liturgical functions are celebrated up until now in a tiny private apartment.

Recently a house was bought that needs to be enlarged and transformed into a small church. The realization of this project depends on the help spiritual and material received from friends.

The year 1996 was the jubilee Year of the IV Centenary of the Union of Brest. The Greek-Catholic Church in the Republic of Belarus organized the central celebrations of the Jubilee on August 15, 1996 (The Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos) in the city of Mogilev. The celebrations were joined with the blessing of the restored Greek-Catholic chapel.

The celebrations were presided over by His Eminence, the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches Achille Silvestrini and the Apostolic Nuncio to Belarus Archbishop Dominik Hrusovsky.  Some photos of these days are available on another page.

Within the framework of his pastoral visit to Belarus, the Cardinal Prefect met with the Latin episcopate: the Metropolitan of Minsk-Mogilev, his Eminence Casimir Cardinal Swiatek and the Bishop of Grodno, His Excellency Bishop Alexander Kaszkiewicz. In an ecumenical spirit he also paid a visit to the Orthodox Metropolitan of Minsk, Metropolitan Filarete.

On October 18, 1996 the exact date of the proclamation of the Union of Brest His Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio, Bishop Dominik Hrusovsky, presided at the Divine Liturgy in the chapel of the Greek-Catholic parish of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Minsk.

An important moment within the framework of the Jubilee Year was the pilgrimage to Rome (during November 2728, 1996) of the Belorussian Greek-Catholic representatives: the Most Reverend Protopresbyter Alexander Nadson of London (Apostolic Visitator for the Belorussians living Abroad), the Most Reverend Archimandrite Sergius Gajek of Minsk (Apostolic Visitator for the Greek-Catholics in Belarus) and the Most Reverend Protopresbyter Jan Matusevic (of Minsk), Dean of the Deanery of the Belorussian Greek-Catholic Church. Their encounter with the Holy Father John Paul II (photo above) was a sign of the paternal concern of His Holiness for all the Belorussian Greek-Catholics.

The jubilee celebrations in Belarus were closed on November 30, 1996 at Brest. The celebration (which took place in the Latin church of the "Mother of God ― Queen") was presided over by His Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Dominik Hrusovsky and the Archbishop Metropolitan of Peremislia (from the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church) Kyr Ivan Martiniak.

photo of Nov 30th celebration in Brest

The three years ― 1997, 1998, 1999 ― have been planned by the Greek-Catholic Church in Belarus as a period of preparation for the Grand Jubilee of the Year 2000. This means an effort to deepen the ecumenical rapprochement among all the Christians of Belarus: Byzantine Catholics (Greek Catholics), Latin Catholics, the Orthodox and the Protestants.

The year 1997, the year of the II European Ecumenical Assembly of Graz, and the year of the International Eucharistic Congress at Wroclaw, is experienced by the Belorussian Greek-Catholic Church as a year of prayer and effort toward reconciliation.

In order to contact us please use the following address:

Father Robert
Friends of CARKVA
Via Corsica, 1
1 ― 00198 ROMA, ITALY

photo: Divine Liturgy celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Union of Brest, November 30, 1996

To Page Two: Letter of the Friends, no. 2

To Page Three:  The Catholic Church in Poland 1990, Polish Statistical Yearbook 1995